Drugs kingpin jailed after smuggling £30million stash of cocaine and cannabis into UK

54-year-old Thomas 'Bomber' Kavanagh has been dubbed the "top man" in the UK of one of Ireland's biggest organised crime groups

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A man described as the boss of a criminal organisation, smuggling cocaine and cannabis into the UK hidden inside items of machinery, has been jailed for 21 years.

The National Crime Agency estimates that the group –headed by Thomas 'Bomber' Kavanagh – imported drugs with a street value of more than £30million into the UK.

The 54-year-old, originally from Dublin, has been described by the Agency as the “top man” in the UK for the Kinahan organised crime group, which operates in Ireland.

Kavanagh's co-accused, Gary Vickery, 39, and Daniel Canning, 43, were jailed for 20 years and 19-and-a-half years respectively.

Canning also pleaded guilty to possessing a firearm and ammunition.

Weapons discovered by the National Crime Agency
Weapons discovered by the National Crime Agency

Judge Martyn Levett, sentencing at Ipswich Crown Court, said the operation was of a “commercial scale” and that he had “no doubt that the successful importations would have continued” were it not for the authorities intercepting a shipment at Dover in 2017.

In October of that year, the National Crime Agency began an investigation and seized a consignment of 15kg of cocaine and 200kg of cannabis hidden inside two large Tarmac removal machines.

Cash found by police
Cash found by police

The judge said “very significant efforts were taken to avoid detection”, noting that a gun was recovered from a lead-lined compartment inside a transformer at an industrial unit.

The judge said the trio of defendants had “conspired together” with a fourth man, Martin Byrne, who died before the case reached court.

Drugs seized in Dover
Drugs seized in Dover
Cash discovered at the back of a sofa
Cash discovered at the back of a sofa

He ordered that the seized drugs, firearms and ammunition be destroyed, and said there would be a Proceeds of Crime hearing at a later date.

Speaking after the sentencing, the NCA's Deputy Director of Investigations, Matt Horne told GB News: "We have dismantled this organised crime group.

National Crime Agency (NCA) of a handgun recovered from an industrial unit in Wednesbury, Staffordshire.
National Crime Agency (NCA) of a handgun recovered from an industrial unit in Wednesbury, Staffordshire.

"They were operating using an extensive overseas network to import drugs and firearms into the UK on an industrial scale.

"They thought perhaps that they were untouchable, but we've shown here that that is absolutely not the case.

"The crime group were moving large industrial equipment into the UK and then back out again on a carousel.

"Consistently bringing in large amounts of drugs making huge profits."

Cash discovered during a search of a property in Boundary Lane
Cash discovered during a search of a property in Boundary Lane

Mr Horne added that when his team raided Kavanagh's "fortified mansion" in January 2019 following his arrest, they found the property packed with weapons including knives, baseball bats, sword and an illegal stun gun.

Kavanagh was previously handed a three-year sentence for those offences.

Undated handout photo issued by the National Crime Agency (NCA) of drugs concealed inside a tarmac removal machine seized in Dover in October 2017.
Undated handout photo issued by the National Crime Agency (NCA) of drugs concealed inside a tarmac removal machine seized in Dover in October 2017.

Mr Horne added: “On top of that we found significant amounts of cash totalling around £35,000, but that was in various denominations, and bundles of notes were hidden throughout the house in bags and drawers, even shoved down the back of the sofa.

Undated handout photo issued by the National Crime Agency (NCA) of a handgun recovered from an industrial unit in Wednesbury, Staffordshire.
Undated handout photo issued by the National Crime Agency (NCA) of a handgun recovered from an industrial unit in Wednesbury, Staffordshire.

"The currencies we recovered included Arab Emirates dirhams, US dollars, euros and sterling. Their international criminal operation spanned continental Europe and the UK.

"Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium, Poland, Germany, Ireland and the West Midlands all feature in the evidence in this case around their criminal activities."